By John Lynds
The Boston City Council hearing scheduled last week to tackle Mayor Martin Walsh’s plan to strengthen the city’s residency requirement for city employees was canceled. The hearing was to be chaired by At-Large City Councilor Michael Flaherty but he was forced to make a last minute change in order to attend a funeral.
The meeting has been rescheduled for Friday, February 26 at 10 a.m. at the City Hall Council Chambers.
In January Walsh filed recommendations to a Council led commission chaired by Flaherty that would look to end a decades-old culture at City Hall that, for the most part, ignores the requirement for some of the city’s top employees.
A 2014 Boston Globe article reported “13 of the 22 top leaders in Boston’s Police Department live outside the city in apparent violation of the city’s residency requirement. The paper found at least 50 municipal employees flouting the requirement and living in the suburbs, including managers in the city’s technology division and the Inspectional Services Department and high-ranking school officials.”
The recommendations made by Walsh would force all new top municipal officials to live in Boston regardless of how long they have worked for the city. In the past, the city’s contract with union city members allowed these employees to move out of Boston after 10 years of service.
Walsh said future longtime employees would be required to move back to Boston if appointed to department heads or cabinet chiefs.
However, some of the plan came under criticism. A clause in the recommendation would make some of Walsh’s hires exempt to the new rule because he argued at a press conference at the time it would be “too complicated” to force these city employees to move back to Boston.
With most of the city’s top law enforcement brass living in Boston suburbs, Walsh said he was not keen on removing the city’s top police officers because of the proposed residency change because it would jeopardize public safety. This grandfather clause would apply to BPD employees like Superintendent-in-Chief William G. Gross, who resides in Milton.